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QUICK REVIEWS: The Departed (episode 22)

QUICK REVIEWS is back in action!  This time, I’m taking a look at The Departed, another action crime drama from Martin Scorsese.  Man, nobody does mob movies like Scorsese. The screenplay is by William Monahan (this is probably his most famous movie) and starring… well, everybody. The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson and Alec Baldwin.  You think they got enough stars?  I bet a lot (half?) of that $90 million dollar budget went to salaries!  It’s not Scorsese’s best movie, but I’m a fan of The Departed.

That’s a good question.  What is Scorsese’s best movie?  Goodfellas?

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Great Movie Moments – Dogma: But you didn’t say “God bless you” when I sneezed!



“This scene is so great. I cannot even mention how great it is aloud.”

Sometimes, a movie has a scene in it that transcends the movie itself.  Dogma has several of those scenes, but here’s my favorite. “But you didn’t say ‘God bless you’ when I sneezed!” is one of these Great Movie MomentsRead the rest of this entry

Monuments Men (quick movie review)

How could a movie about a compelling subject with this cast have so little teeth? Monuments Men just doesn’t have any bite – the flick can’t hold an audience.
OK, I’m done with the weird mouth metaphors. Read the rest of this entry

Behind the Candelabra quick movie review

Matt Damon and Michael Douglas star as Scott Thorson and Liberace in the film nobody wanted to make (because it’s “too gay”), Behind the Candelabra.  They finally found a home for their picture at HBO, bringing life to the story of the piano playing legend and Thorson, who wrote the book from which the movie is adapted.

As you may have gathered from the quick movie review affix, I don’t have much to say about Behind the Candelabra.  It’s a good movie, but I wouldn’t say it’s great.  It’s more of performer’s movie rather than the combining all of the elements of film all together and doing something unforgettable.  Matt Damon and Michael Douglas are wonderful in the starring roles and I gained new respect for Scott Bakula and Debbie Reynolds, but Dan Aykroyd is barely in the movie and just distracted me, and Rob Lowe looked so freakish that… yeah, that distracted me, too.

Anyway, the story just didn’t grab me, so to speak.  It held my attention, but I wasn’t especially invested in what happened to Scott Thorson, and I think that’s what was missing here.  It’s a good flick, but not great; I’m giving Behind the Candelabra 8 out of 10.

Elysium (movie review)

Matt Damon stars in the movie you have no idea how to pronounce, Elysium. Read the rest of this entry

Trying to figure out the whole Bourne Legacy thing

bourne-legacy-movie-posterBy now, you’ve seen the commercial for The Bourne Legacy, and if you’re anything like me, it generates a number of questions in your mind that can’t really be answered, but are fun to kick around.  Such as:
Read the rest of this entry

True Grit 2010 movie review

I finally saw Academy Award Best Picture contender True Grit, directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.  One can’t help but compare this new version of True Grit with the original film, and I don’t think there is much of an argument that the 2010 version is a better film than the 1969 adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, but I have to wonder why the Coen brothers decided to make this movie in the first place.  (I would guess the Golden Globes had similar questions; I don’t think it earned a single nomination in any category.)

I don’t have much to say about this movie – again, if you saw the original, it’s an experience one can only have while watching a remake.  Sure, it’s not shot for shot like that new version of Psycho, but it was still strange.  This time around, we get Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, and while I love me some John Wayne, it’s not hard to see that Bridges is the superior actor – and that’s pretty much the theme throughout the entire movie; it’s pretty much the same movie as last time around, but the acting is better, the editing and directing is done with more care, the film is grittier.  (That’s right, I went there.  Delicious pun.)  Hailee Steinfeld is better than Kim Darby as Mattie Ross; Matt Damon is infinitely better than Glen Campbell (who straight up can’t act) as La Boeuf… exchange Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper for Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper (well, not exactly – Jeff Corey played Tom Chaney in the original rather than Josh Brolin…  but I’m going with an exchange of star power here, not direct roles) and yes, the new cast outshines the old with their performances.

True Grit 2010 is worth seeing if you don’t know the story or haven’t see the original – no, it’s probably still worth seeing.  The only reason to see True Grit 1969 is the lush landscapes and ancient film stock – movies just don’t look like that anymore!  Now I haven’t seen the original or read the book in over fifteen years, and I’m the sort of person who watches/reads the same thing over and over, and yet, I don’t think there is much in the way of an unsure moment in the entire movie.  It’s an old fashioned story, so you know the bad guys are going to lose and the good guys will live, and neither version ever supplies a moment where you think otherwise.  It’s not a bad story, it’s just a safe one; True Grit is an old fashioned western, no more, no less.  The 2010 ensemble does a great job, but unless you love the western genre, I wouldn’t exactly call it a must see.  (It is great to see Barry Pepper in a movie, though.)  If it’s still playing in theaters and you have to get your Oscar on, well, go ahead, I guess.  Otherwise, I’d wait for DVD.

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Green Zone movie review

In an effort to give you a quick, clear view of Green Zone before I go too deep and bring out the spoilers, here are the tools you need to decide if you want to watch this movie:  it’s a fast paced action movie based on reality, but its not a documentary; they weren’t trying to win any awards when they made this movie.  But the point i valid, never the less.  The editing is flawless, the action is well done and frequent, and the cast does a great job.

Entering the spoiler zone…

Matt Damon portrays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, who commands a squad of a dozen or so guys who are assigned to secure weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, circa 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government.  As we recall, they find nothing, which leads Damon’s character to question the intelligence he’s receiving as he combines hostile environments while risking the lives of his men.  When the officers higher up the chain don’t want to hear what Miller has to say, he finds himself stuck between Poundstone, a non military government official and the official prick of the movie (play by Greg Kinnear) and Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a CIA agent who knows the truth: the intelligence is garbage and Poundstone knows it.  Miller and Brown forge an alliance, but when Poundstone finds out, he has Miller reassigned.  Miller also meets Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), a journalist who published an article based off information from a source known as Magellan she received from Poundstone, which we ultimately learn was modified by Poundstone or whoever he answers to.  There’s also this Baathist general named Al Rawi (Igal Naor – his character is on those famous playing cards our armed forces were issued to help them learn who their targets were) who Poundstone wants to eliminate and Brown wants to enlist.  In the middle of all this is Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), an Iraqi who serves Miller as both an informant (he approaches them on the street while they’re digging for WMDs) and a translator.  Freddy just wants his country back (or to haunt your childrens’ dreams, where you can’t protect them!  Wait, sorry, wrong Freddy), and as a veteran himself, wants to see an end to the violence, although his allegiance lies neither to Rawi, Brown or Poundstone, never mind Miller.

I know the plot seems complicated, but its not.  The movie’s pace and editing are awesome, especially the hard cutting action sequences.  Like “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”, director Paul Greengrass doesn’t skimp on the coverage, editing or action.  Again, can’t say enough about the editing.  One of the things I had a hard time getting a handle on was Miller’s ability to execute his orders and modify his missions as he saw fit; Miller is a Chief; my understanding is that is a non-commissioned officer’s rank, so I would think it’s unusual for him to, without contacting any higher ranking office, take a tip from a guy he met on the street and load up his boys into a civilian’s car along with their vehicles and raid a private home.  But then, that’s how Miller’s character operates throughout the entire movie – I assume that were the story to continue, he’d get Court Marshalled at some point.  Anyway, he refers to himself as a chief warrant office; maybe this is a job, not a rank.  Too lazy to look it up.

Why is the movie called  “Green Zone”?  Uhm, a substantial portion of the movie takes place in this area of Iraq…  people making big decisions were in this area, too…  Eh.  I’m not sure.  Maybe other folks weren’t to sure, either; Green Zone made $35 million in the US and another $59 million on the international market, for a total of $94 million on a $100 million dollar budget, making the movie a bit of a box office bust for Damon.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Americans will go to the movies for a history lesson, but not for the news; I think audiences felt that movies like Green Zone, World Trade Center and United 93 were dramatized too soon.  As for me, the movie’s message is that we always need to question why we’re going to war, and you can’t say that often enough or loud enough.

If you’re in the mood for an action movie with a current events twist and the power of Matt Damon, give Green Zone a look.  We rented the Blu Ray version from Blockbuster, and it looked pretty nice.  The filmed at night (a lot) and the digital transfer is pretty good, but not perfect.

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